When People Hurt People – There is an Anchor For the Soul

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

A boy of about 10 years worked hard to raise enough money to own a bicycle.  He mowed lawns, ran errands, washed cars, and saved every penny. Months later, he sat atop his new 20″ freestyle BMX , ready for his first ride.  His heart filled with joy,  his feet could barely keep up with the peddles as he sailed downhill on a city side street.

Suddenly, a group of teenagers surrounded him. Searing pain consumed his face; blood ran from his nose. They left him on the cement with a broken jaw, and no bike.

The boy stood up, saw a police car, and ran toward it.  Between sobs and bloodied teeth he tried to tell the officers what had happened. He was scolded, “Go home and stay out of trouble.” They drove away having collected no information about the bike or the teenage  assailants and thieves.

Helpless isn’t all …

That true story hurts my heart every time it comes to mind. It sad to think of the grave disappointment, anger, and confusion that must have enveloped that boy. Unfortunately,  in a world where people often hurt others, he is not alone in that sense of helplessness. 

When life isn’t fair and injustice seems to have the upper hand, an anchor for the soul is Jesus. I know not everyone who reads my blogs is “religious” per se, yet this is my experience. My story is not complete without telling of the One who has been my strength and inspiration through every broken heart. 

…There’s real hope

Last week, a stranger felt it was somehow acceptable to interject herself into a private and sensitive part of my life. Twice I felt invaded as she justified being the one to inform me of a personal family matter.  This triggered days of PTSD-driven anxiety (due to the issue), tension, and fatigue. No one can make anyone else feel a certain way, however her lack of compassion was extraordinary.  

I feel better today because my anchor reminded me nothing is bigger than he is. He dwarfs fear and exists beyond the reaches of human error.  When people hurt me, in him I trust. In him a sense of helplessness is replaced with security. His embrace never fails.

You see, the anchor holds in every kind of storm.   

 

 

 

**********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

Embrace Love from the Heart. Teach it to Your Children

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

I’ll never forget Mr. Hammer.

As a tyke of merely four years, Mr. Hammer’s white hair, cane, and wicker porch rocking chair spelled out his age. Old. Very old.

On one of many escapes from my house across the street, I went to his door and knocked. He invited me in.  We had a nice chat over lemonade. I asked if anyone else lived there and he showed me a picture of his wife and son- both killed in a car accident years earlier.  I knew he was lonely and wanted to be his friend.

Then from outside we heard my name called, loudly and repeatedly.  Mr. Hammer peered through his screen door, turned to me and said, “You had better go home, child.  Please come back and visit.”

“I will!” Reluctantly I stepped onto his porch and returned to mom who was walking up and down the sidewalk looking for me.

That was the last time I ever saw Mr. Hammer.

After a good yelling,  I was told never to talk to him again. Why? “Because we do not know him,” came the final answer.

Born to Care

For three years I felt guilty until someone told me he had died. It’s disappointing to think my family couldn’t have met him rather than destroy his and my hopes due to fear.

When JFK was assassinated, I only understood a man had been hurt.  Our city hospital was nearby. Running toward it, intending to help the man feel better, I screamed in anger and disappointment when dad snatched me up and wouldn’t allow me to go. I was only two.

Perhaps caring about others is a trait with which one is born.  Maybe this tendency can be scourged by hardship and fear. Then again, it was relatability that drew me to Mr. Hammer. He needed  a friend and so did I.

Go for it

Whatever the nature or nurture debate about this may be, let me encourage you to embrace your desire to help, or to support someone else who does – especially children.

Yes, we must take care to have our needs met. Living to serve at the continued expense of our physical or mental health is unwise. Nevertheless,  what a pity it is to shut down any part of the love this world so desperately needs.

 

**********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

Tearful? Racing Thoughts? Unable to Concentrate? Consider this:

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Maybe you are normal!

Those happy people

Life is often hard. Reactions to stress or disappointment  may include tears, racing thoughts, and trouble concentrating. We do not feel like ourselves at those times and wish we could be normal like other folks.

They smile, laugh,  and accomplish plenty seemingly without excess strain.  Even when aware of the troubles others suffer, we still tend to assume they are handling life with strength and courage.  We however, are falling apart.

Consider two facts. please

1) Everyone presents strength. It is what we do.  Deflection (“I’m alright, you?”), dismissal (“no worries”), and bravado (“I’m pulling through”) are often viewed as acceptable forms of suffering.  An honest, “I’m falling apart” or “I need your support” may be met with skepticism and withdrawal.

In this social atmosphere, is it any wonder we wear masks? Brave people reveal the truth but pay a price, too. By many they are accepted and embraced.  Some will judge them with ignorance and stigma.

Much of what we assume about the happiness of others is subjective at best. Perhaps nearly each person is hiding difficulty as we tend to do.

2). Comparing our insides with the outsides of others accomplishes nothing healthy.  Any guess as to the wellbeing of another person is inadequate. We judge from bias based on our experiences and interpretation of what we observe.

Carol greets guests with a vibrant smile in her job as hotel manager.  Sims goes about his work with typical reliability.  Keisha continues to chauffeur her children to activities. Upon first glance would you suspect Carol doubts her worth, Sims feels he is waiting to die, or that  Keisha battles horrific flashbacks?

In our misery we may see what others present and think, “I wish I was happy like they are.”

True courage

Again I suggest, maybe your tearfulness, racing thoughts, and inability to concentrate are normal.  What would not be so common is courage to reach out for wise counsel.  Even one visit with a competent therapist may improve your point of view.  Further sessions can include skills for handling similar challenges in the future.

Are you normal?  Wisdom admits imperfection and the need for each other.  Go ahead, give professional counsel a try.  Support groups too are terrific for proving just how well we fit in with the rest of the human race. 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*911* to Friends. Will We Respond?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

James* was withdrawn, irritable, and severely depressed. He mumbled dark  statements  occasionally such as, “My life doesn’t matter.”

He was under professional care, however his mood was growing worse. He was convinced no one cared about him (a symptom of major depression).  People in his life knew he was struggling but did not reach out.  He felt increasingly rejected and alone.

No promise versus an empty one

One day a friend said “I’ll come over. We’ll meet every week. How’s tomorrow?”

To James, that little bit was hope. He very much looked forward to this visit. At last, someone cared!  For the first time in weeks, James began to smile.

The next day came, and no friend. No call. No explanation. James felt devastated. This was the final proof he needed that his life was worthless.  His suicidal thoughts increased,  and he went backward mental health-wise. He suffered much from that broken promise – a promise he would have been better off never receiving in the first place.

In moments of sympathy or guilt, we want to offer impulsive promises. Empty, unfulfilled  promises are discouraging and harmful Please do not make them.

Instead, how about laying out a kind boundary that works for you?  “I care about you. You can call me Monday. I’ll be free from 6-7.”  Then be there.

A kind word

Another man texted several friends, describing his desperate loneliness and emotional pain. “I need a friend now. Today. 911” Four hours later he heard from a woman who  invited him to talk.  No one else answered his plea.

Why are we so scared to be real friends? It is easy to mix at social events, work side by side, or even talk about troubles.  When someone needs us to go to them, to reach beyond the usual, why do we hesitate?

We say we do not know what words to use.  Some of the most encouraging statements are uncomplicated. “I’m here.”  “I’m sorry to see you in such pain.”  Quietly sitting with a hurting friend can express nonjudgmental love and acceptance.

Actions are not so very difficult either. Pick up the phone, answer a text, let a friend talk, or tell someone they matter.

Major Depression is a lonely illness.  For more specific ideas on how to help, read articles on this website under the category “How to be an Effective Support.”

No one is to blame for a completed suicide due to not knowing what to say or when to say it. Keep in mind though, that suicide is preventable. A kind word really can save a life.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*Not his real name

Wise Advice for Finding Emotionally Safe Listeners

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

It seems a healthy idea to think through our choices of confidants.  Not everyone is safe. 

So-called friends who gossip and speak insultingly of you behind your back are not trustworthy. Unfortunately, because they want to be in-the-know, you may find them close by when you need to share.

Don’t.

You can recognize them by their choice of words or tone when they talk about others. A woman asked recently about defining gossip. Gossip is talking about a person behind their back without his or her permission. One article, Bible Verses About Gossip*, says it  this way, “Whether the people talking didn’t mean direct harm, the result of gossip is always broken trust and hurt feelings. Gossip can be defined as information about the behavior or personal life of other people, often without the full truth revealed or known.”

I made a costly mistake confiding in a woman  who often told me about intimate troubles of other people.  Seeing the problem, I rationalized it away.  Later I realized she shared even the most private of confessions and admissions with her husband. She inserted negative judgments into half-true stories she told  mutual friends. 

It pays to feel out a person’s attitudes before opening up. With regard to mental health topics, simple questions like, “What do you think about all the talk on mental illness in the news these days?” will help reveal stigmatized views. 

Take your time. Look at character traits. What have you witnessed?  Does this person have control over her tongue or is she opinionated to a fault?  Does he patronize or condescend?

When we are in pain, or blinded by a desperate need to trust, we may rationalize the behavior of others.  This is normal. I encourage you to develop a carefully selected group of friends who over time prove they are safe.  It is also a good idea to have a therapist or pastor in your corner. 

Once you have a trustworthy support system,  take a risk. We do need each other, after all. 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*Bible Verses About Gossip. Compiled and Edited by BibleStudyTools Staff on 2/4/2015. Retrieved on May 5, 2018 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/

 

Want to Share Your Mental Health Story? Be Wise

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

For any of us who have struggled with mental illness and gone public about it, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Unfortunate stigma has people believing that 1) suicide attempt survivors are violent; 2) anyone with a mental illness is unreliable; and 3) living with a mental illness means one could “go off” at any time. 

If I were hiring and believed all the above, it would be natural to hesitate. It is tough to explain the truth to potential employers when no one will offer an interview. 

Trust is difficult to regain. I have friends and family who still believe that people with mental illness are likely violent. It is disappointing because i thought by now they will have heard me and smashed such stigmas.  

The founder of a ministry, a therapist,  agreed to a meeting to discuss if  I could play a role in his work.  Immediately he asked about my diagnosis and before I could tell what employable skills I offer, His facial expressions and body language moved from potential employer to fixer.  I knew I was wasting my time. It was condescending under the circumstances.

Would I go back and keep my mental health history a secret? My story came out via book in 2013. Some people treat me differently. It’s been tough finding work.  If you Google me you get mental health issues and my story.  There’s no hiding now. 

Good has come of it too! How could I weigh personal losses against the value of a life? Some faces are unforgettable, like the ones who tell me I’ve given them hope.  In my best estimation (because who can really know) I think at least one person is alive because of my openness. I’ve seen family members improve in their support of struggling loved ones. So many have read my blog and heard my radio interviews, there is simply no way of knowing the result. 

If you have or plan to go public with your mental illness,  good for you! We need more voices. However, think carefully before you do. Due to a few generously honest celebrities,  the national conversation has begun.

Be wise.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

Falsely Accused? Fight for Justice With Your Best Weapon

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Jarrell drove safely over several months for a national share-a-ride service. It was working out so well he planned to do it as a flexible means of income while traveling the United States.

One evening, he received surprise news. He was fired. Answers to his plea for an explanation were simple and direct.  A rider had claimed Jarrell was driving recklessly. 

Life unravels

That was all it took – one false report from a self-absorbed liar vying for a free ride.  The growing company could afford to throw away employees, so there was no investigation. Jobless and with sinking dreams, Jarrell began a feverish search for work.

This triggered his anxiety disorder. Occasionally he was unable to function. Nearly losing his car and car insurance, the companies agreed to work with him.  Unable to pay his rent, the landlord took a financial hit as well.  Four months later, Jarrell landed a part-time job that barely pays his bills.

All this because someone casually lied.

Seeking truth

There was another player in this story besides Jarrell and the passenger. The company’s representative chose not to listen. 

Reputations are fragile. Loss of a good one can be devastating. We have all witnessed social media rip apart people’s lives while disinterestedly ignoring facts. Too often, careless rumors and assumptions are greeted with “I knew it!” instead of “let’s check the truth.”  I too have been falsely accused of behaviors out of my character. It is too bad, and sad, that some people have nothing better to do than destroy.

The best weapon

Honest and open communication is the only weapon I have found that works to restore a damaged reputation.  Jarrell’s boss shut down communication. This is the style of trolls, gossips, slanderers, and bullies as well.  

There is not much one can do when another is unwilling to hear. However,  there are those who will listen and encourage restoration.  You and I pursue justice when we refuse to sink into the ugly mire with liars. People will notice, eventually, that we are made of better stuff than false accusers imply. 

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*car by ANA_KOLL and beach by WINCHILD on rgbstock.com

 

Sloooow Dowwwwn. Your Impatience Will Not Help Someone’s Depression Go Away

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

I guess it is simple enough.  People struggling with depression want it to go away. People watching others struggle with depression want them well.

So, we all agree.

Depression is yucky.

Frustration

Bryan wanted to return to work.  His boss was growing impatient. His wife was arguing for him to get off the couch.  His therapist warned him moving too fast could cause a set-back.  Bryan was sick of it all, and especially sick of himself.

Why couldn’t he work like normal people? He hated the stupid mistakes he was making – like drinking too much last night and fighting with a friend.  He was neglecting his wife and children, staring into the television 14 hours a day.  In his negative thinking, fueled by fierce major depression, his life was a waste.  Maybe everyone would be better off if he was gone.

Bryan never attempted suicide. If he had, it would have been no one’s fault. His boss, wife, friend, children, and Bryan had reason to feel frustrated and impatient. A sense of normalcy was challenged. Their needs were unmet. It hurt to suffer and watch suffering, however they did not know what to do.

Fragility

The therapist encouraged him to take small steps forward. “Go ahead, get off the couch and eat dinner with your family. Then the next day, maybe do the dishes or go for a short walk.”

In the midst of a major depressive episode even little tasks can seem overwhelming.  Exhaustion comes quickly. Eating dinner or taking a shower can, in many cases, be all a person can handle each day for a while.

Bryan tried.  I saw him begin to feel more like himself. Eventually he worked half days, and then returned to his old schedule. Here’s the truth – no one was able to make his depression heal faster. Depression ran its course, and Bryan had to take it slow.

Another man pushed himself too hard and ended back in the hospital.  I too tried to sign up for too much too soon. It is frustrating being so fragile. All the while, depression is fueling  negativity and self-loathing.

No “Fixing” 

When you want to “fix” your depressed loved one, or express anger at someone’s slow recovery, take a step back. Maybe go for a walk yourself. Learn about depression; ask your loved one what they are feeling. Practice careful acceptance and avoid judgment.

Anger does not produce what we all agree is best – putting depression behind us.  Yes, depression is yucky. It challenges all involved. Patience is how to beat it.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*MOTORCYCLE by SULACO229 and SLOW by ALBION on rgbstock.com

 

Your Depressed Friend May Need You to Make Like the Ends of a Dog’s Legs

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Yes, that’s what I suggest – to best support a friend in distress, we need to make like the ends of a dog’s legs.

Huh?

Do you recall those occasions when you spoke out of turn, said something regretful, or insisted on your rights without much regard for others? You’re not alone. It happens.  Some of us  have received friendly rebukes or even been held accountable. We learn and improve.

I waited too long

Earlier this month, I heard something disheartening from a surprising source.  Because my emotions were strong, it seemed prudent to wait before bringing it up. However,  time passed quickly. Two days ago, those emotions came out in a disproportionate response to another issue in the moment.

A therapist once told me, “If we do not let our emotions out in healthy ways, they will come out in some other form, usually destructive.” This is one reason people self-medicate or engage in self-injury, or die by suicide. Holding feelings in harms mental and physical wellbeing.  It is also why some of us let loose those words we later wish we could take back.

Oh, Samantha

Everyone knew when Samantha was in a room. She had a way of drawing attention to herself. This is not a compliment in her case.

Samantha non-stop talked. She bragged this was her right, and if anyone didn’t like it they could shut up and listen. Then she laughed. On the surface she appeared disinterested in another point of view.

I watched as everyone around her grew quiet. Samantha had her audience and was glad. Regardless her motive, she effectively shutdown the rights of everyone else to speak freely. Consequences of her behavior probably left her lonely.

Wisdom is… 

Effective support for a loved one who is struggling with depression, anxiety, or any mental health challenge,  means being slow to speak and making the effort to learn.  That’s where wisdom is –  in listening and learning.

Unless a health condition interferes, we have control over what we say, how we say it, and when.  To avoid causing harm to a vulnerable person, and not commit mine or  Samantha’s mistakes,  it is best to take one’s time and hold back the rush of words.    

Take to heart the dog’s legs principle:  

Before opening the mouth to speak, make like the ends of a dog’s legs…   

and PAWS!

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening IS Doing: Be Effective Helping Your Depressed Friend

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

If you are a thoughtful listener, you are rare. Much of the time we consider what to say more than what to hear. 

Imagine you tell me your work day was difficult.  What response would you like?

“Oh, it can’t have been as bad as my day.”  OR  “Oh that’s too bad, what happened?” 

Likely, the second one leaves you feeling more cared for and heard.

There’s a third, best option

A mother of grown sons entered the support group room with about ten of us. She was anxious, and depressed. Her sons lived with her and their father, and refused to move out. Without jobs, they stole their parents’ money, mooched their food, and left messes for them to clean up. At one point, she had locked the refrigerator only to have them break it to take her groceries. 

She felt helpless because her husband silently endorsed and enabled their sons’ behavior. Her attempts at holding them accountable fell flat when their father consistently rescued them from responsibility. 

Frustrated, many times the mother tried to express her needs and valid concerns to her family, and was met with anger and insult.  When I met her, she was nearing her emotional limit. 

Surrounded by sympathetic  and empathetic listeners, her feelings were not dismissed. No one tried to fix her or compare her pain to theirs. Instead, members of the group nodded,  believing her  thoughts and emotions.  Whatever she said, her words were accepted without argument or advice.

It’s a miracle

She left renewed with strength to make and stand by decisions necessary to save herself. It is a type of miracle in my opinion,  when a person blossoms simply because they are heard. 

Thoughtful listening. It is selfless and effective. Perhaps the most powerful gift we can offer to a struggling friend is to listen without words. 

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.